Throughout history, farmers have used bamboo for a multitude of purposes. From rural housing to water pipes, fences and trellis, props, cooking utensils, baskets and buckets, animal sheds and pens, greenhouses, fertilizer, and the list goes on and on.
Unfortunately, many of todays farmers are not familiar with these ancient practices anymore, even though bamboo could still be used as an affordable and reliable alternative in agriculture.
Of course, it must be noted that bamboo is not abundant in every part of the world, especially Europe and North America lack the availability of native and useful bamboos. Western tools and technologies have often replaced traditional practices in tropical countries throughout Asia and Latin America, which contributes to the reduced usage and knowledge of bamboo among local farming communities.
It is therefore important to promote and revive the use of bamboo in agriculture, and to teach people how to grow, care and use bamboo for their own benefit. This page is intended to inspire and to present some practical examples of how bamboo can be used on a farm.
Bamboo greenhouses are very popular among farming communities in the tropics because a bamboo greenhouse is much more economical to build, operate and maintain compared to conventional steel framed greenhouses. In addition they are also more sturdy and reliable.
Bamboo is a poor conductor of heat, which reduces the inside temperature and consequentially reduces the costs of large air conditioners. Polyurethane sheets in close contact with hot steel is also more prone to wear and tear, while with bamboo greenhouses the plastic sheet life is usually twice as long (up to 4 years).
Bamboo is an excellent material for cheap and light plant support sticks, stakes or props. In Central America, Bambusa vulgaris poles were used for many years to prop bananas for United Fruit. The poles were often treated with creosote to extend their service life.
Bamboo stakes are also used as bean poles or to support the growth of vegetables, fruits and flowers as shown in some of the picture examples below.
Bamboo Bean Poles
Bamboo Banana Prop
Bamboo Bell Pepper Support
Bamboo Tomato Trellis
In Latin America, farmers often use bamboo as beehives. Bamboo internodes (the part between 2 nodes) of larger diameter bamboo species such as Guadua angustifolia or Dendrocalamus asper are very well suited to make a bamboo beehive. A closed piece of bamboo is suspended horizontally under the roof of a house or shed, and a small hole made in one node at one end enables the bees to enter.
Guadua Bamboo Beehive
After a few days, the enclosed bamboo beehive will attract bees to live and raise their young. The presence of the bees can be seen when there is a waxy entranceway protruding from the hole that we made earlier (see picture above).
The bees will create a densely packed matrix of hexagonal cells made of beeswax (honeycomb) inside the bamboo. They use the cells to store their honey, and to house eggs, larvae, and pupae. After about 4-6 weeks their honey can be harvested from the bamboo internode by splitting it length-wise with a machete.
Honey doesn't only taste great, it is also a natural energy booster and has a lot of health benefits because of its antibacterial properties. In Central America, farmers also use this "bamboo honey" to treat eye infections.